James Demons Jr. and seven fellow pupils have spent the past year monitoring pollution and extracting trash from the muddy waters of Butler Creek - all in the name of science.
On Monday, members of the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream research team, nicknamed the "Creek Freaks," found themselves face to face with U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who honored them with a national award for helping to preserve public lands.
"This occasion is really a miracle of modern telecommunications," Mrs. Norton said from the Interior Department headquarters in Washington, which was linked by a videoconference system to the pupils and their families in Augusta.
Volunteers are among the best - and most important - stewards of public lands, she said.
The Creek Freaks, whose research was conducted at the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy's Phinizy Swamp Nature Park, were among 14 honorees nationwide chosen as recipients of the Interior Department's 2004 Take Pride in America awards.
"I got involved in this because I love nature," said James, a 12-year-old home-schooled pupil from Columbia County, who was the group's spokesman. "Someday, when I grow up, I'd like to protect the creek and keep it clean for future generations."
Ruth Mead, an education specialist at the nature park and the leader of the team, said the group's research began about a year ago and involved monthly visits to Butler Creek to collect water samples that are analyzed for oxygen content, temperature, acidity and other properties.
The group has been invited to a Sept. 21 awards ceremony in Washington.
The Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy is a nonprofit educational organization based in Augusta, with programs ranging from research and outreach to environmental education.
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the Team
The members of the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream research team are: James Demons Jr., 12, home school, Columbia County; Nick Greek, 13, Langford Middle School, Richmond County; John Hughes, 15, home school, Richmond County; Billy Spurlin, 15, Harlem High School, Columbia County; Christopher Newell, 13, A.L. Corbett Middle School, Aiken County; Ross Whitehorne, 13, Langford Middle School, Richmond County; Madeline Wible, 11, Lakeside Middle School, Columbia County; and Allegra Yeley, 15, John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, Richmond County.